Photo of the Week - May 3, 2011

Osprey nesting on cell tower
Pandion haliaetus

Lakewood, WA
May 3, 2011

Fans of the movie Casablanca will remember Rick's parting words to Ilsa " doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." While this may have been true in the WW II resistance movement, it is not the case in modern day Lakewood, WA.

This is the story of two individuals who've made a lasting impact on their neighbors.
Approximately 146,000 vehicles travel the I-5 corridor through Lakewood and the Fort Lewis area each day, rushing to their jobs and through their lives - barely slowing down to notice the businesses and chain restaurants that dot the way.

On the west side of the highway, tucked into a mini-storage facility, is a cell tower. For six months each year, a pair of Osprey use the tower to nest and raise their young. This is their story.

It is not remarkable that the Osprey have chosen the cell tower. Across the country and around the world, utility poles and other man-made structures are popular nesting sites for fish hawks. From  "Because cell towers stretch high above surrounding trees and buildings, they sometimes offer perfect nesting sites for Ospreys, large brown and white birds of prey. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Osprey nests are protected, even on cell towers."

What is remarkable is the impact this pair has had on their human neighbors.

Each time I have visited the commercial strip adjoining the nest site I have been approached by people who live or work close to the cell tower. Each individual approaches with protective pride for the Osprey who have been nesting here for the past half dozen years. They carefully question me for motives and interests. They politely inquire whether I am pro- or anti-Osprey and whether I have an affiliation with the bureaucrats at the cell company.

Once it is verified that I am an ally, the stories begin to flow. Like proud parents, they recount the arrival day from Mexico (April 6 in 2011); favorite Osprey fishing spots are mentioned; ongoing battles with the unfeeling corporate types who insist on having technicians dismantle the nest each fall; glee at the speed with which the pair rebuild their summer home each spring. Most of all, the Lakewood neighbors share their joy in the birds and have welcomed me into their fold of people who care about the nesting Osprey. Each time I visit, I am enthusiastically invited to return and share in the annual miracle.

Coming back to the quote from Casablanca: Every year environmentalists, conservationists and advocates for birds struggle to make the natural world relevant and important to the general public. In Lakewood, two Osprey have created relevance for a group of neighbors who have the honor of sharing their daily lives with the natural world.